Russia 2017

Russia – All bets off in 2017?

Andrew Hayes, Managing Partner

Fresh back from our end of year Moscow Forum and Seasonal Party in partnership with our friends at Bank of New York Mellon.

We were delighted to host a session with The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau which was wide ranging and insightful.  Bureau Chief Nathan Hodge with his Deputy James Marson gave an overview on how they see the broader political and economic landscape.  Nathan reminded us that despite its medium sized economy, Russia is a key player in every global crisis today.  “Given its size and historical legacies, Russia feels strongly that it needs to play a global role” and won’t be constrained by any thought of strategic over-reach.

Whilst Trump’s victory could be a game changer in Russo-US relations, the appointment of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State is a clear sign that President Trump might well be.  Unlike previous incumbents, Nathan said Tillerson doesn’t come from a conventional background in public policy or arms control.  “He is a businessmen who has been cutting deals in Russia for years.  He understands the local mentality, the factions and how to get things done.”  James added that President Putin will also be looking for de-escalation.  So sanctions might be lifted within six months was one optimistic view in the room.  Our experience at Hudson Sandler is that the market in Q4 2016 was definitely more active and 2017 could be a much more positive year.

The audience was fixated on the supposed anti-Russian bias of US media and the WSJ in particular.  “When was the last time you wrote a positive article about Russia ?” asked one cynical delegate.  “We don’t see stories as positive or negative” replied James.  “Our job is to help our readers understand what is happening in Russia.”  “How do we pitch positive stories into you?” asked another.  “Call us and tell us why your company is doing something different and new and why it has broader relevance” replied Nathan.  Both hate e-mails.  Both want to be called and to meet to build relationships based on trust.

So the general mood was up-beat after over two grinding years.  Nathan and James have a real passion for Russia.  I concluded by saying that our clients had always had a fair hearing from the WSJ’s Moscow bureau.  “Whatever those present think about the editorial line in New York, in Moscow you have two locally based experts who are passionate about the country and want to write truthfully – the good, the bad and the ugly.” 

Happy Christmas and New Year from all at Hudson Sandler.

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